Websites for CPAs: Is the Web Industry Leading You in the Wrong Direction? A Discussion with Solutions.
The current trend in the world of website development is toward mass customization through the use of content management toolkits such as Wordpress. What do we mean by “mass customization?” Every website is built with a different layout and functionality. This article argues that building websites using this model is very counterproductive for the vast majority of CPA firms. In fact, this approach actually impedes the generation of economic value. Why? There are three significant reasons.
Maintenance Costs: When a small CPA firm builds a website, either directly or through web developers, it has implicitly committed to the lifetime costs of maintaining that website. There are a vast number of reasons for updating a website, including a redirection or new opportunity for the business, an update in technology (the introduction of the iPad, for example), or simply a desire to take advantage of new web technology (liked Linkedin). There are many examples of CPA companies that have built websites but do not have the resources or time to maintain them.
Opportunity Costs: Most websites are built and maintained by a cottage industry of web developers. Many small CPA firms can’t obtain enough bandwidth from the web developer to update their websites in a timely manner. This hinders marketing innovation for the business, because all actions are gated by access to web resources. Further, as new Internet technologies are introduced into the marketplace, the current toolkit approach forces everyone individually to update and integrate the new technology. Viewed at a market level, this is a truly massive amount of work.
Business-to-Business collaboration: With different companies building their own unique websites, businesses cannot easily integrate their respective marketing messages to create a material impact in the marketplace. Also, it is impossible for CPA firms to integrate synergistically with natural partners like banks and insurance professionals. Thus, customization actually leads to the loss of massive business opportunities for small businesses.
What about builder solutions from companies such as Web.com, GoDaddy, Vistaprint, or Wix.com ?
Companies such as GoDaddy, Vistaprint, Wix.com and Web.com increasingly have offered "web builder" tools. While these tools certainly aid in the ease-of-development of websites, they fundamentally do not change the paradigm of mass customization and have the same issues as toolkits such as Wordpress.
What is the solution?
In a word, the answer is platforms. Platforms differ from toolkits in that a single entity builds a core functionality that can be personalized by each business. Examples of successful platforms include Facebook, Linkedin, and Quickbooks. Today, CPAs have access to platforms such as Ocoos for their marketing function. These platforms have the following characteristics:
Standard web presence driven by personalization with direct data entry by customer.
Standard methods for integration of content.
Deep functionality including natively integrated ecommerce, customer relationship management, social network management, data mining, and analytics.
How do platforms compare to the toolkit approach?
In a platform, the consumers of the website gain a standard look and feel. This contrasts favorably with the mass customization of the toolkit model, where customers have a potentially haphazard and unfamiliar experience.
In a platform, CPA firms have access to a deep functionality at a very affordable price. With a toolkit, most of the advanced functionality is not available to the CPA firms, and if it is available, the CPA firms have to integrate the technology themselves.
In a platform, maintenance costs are minimized since they are shared over all users. For toolkits, the aggregate maintenance costs are massive and generally not supportable by most CPA firms.
In a platform, opportunity costs are eliminated because new Internet technologies can be integrated in a very efficient manner, unlike toolkit approaches that require integration on an individualized basis.
Finally, the platform approach allows for a standard base upon which business-to-business marketing integration can occur. The mass customization resultant from the toolkit approach disallows this possibility.
Do these platforms remove the need for digital marketers?
No. Actually, the opposite is true. With these platforms, digital marketers can focus on core marketing much more efficiently than they currently can. Additionally, they can operate with a platform that can scale efficiently over time.
What are the powerful platforms for CPAs ?
- Social Network: Linkedin
- Local Search: Google Places
- Online Infrastructure: Ocoos